But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;Psalms 5:11 (NRSV)
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
so that those who love your name may exult in you.
With all the positive news of a COVID-19 vaccine coming soon and a chance to “get back to normal,” what a perfect week to talk about Joy and to focus on the good not only in the Christmas story but also in the world around us.
My husband challenged me this week. You see, usually when I talk about joy, I balance it with concerns. When we look at the positives in the world around us, we speak of them in the midst of the negatives. Even in the Christmas story, we drag out the fear and struggle and doubt that everyone faced before being filled with the joy of the good news of the baby in the manger. But what my husband challenged me to do this week is to simply rejoice, and to encourage all of you to do the same! Allowing ourselves to just be joyful! What a novel idea–to just be joyful and to not feel bad about it!
It’s kind of funny, when we record our Household Huddle videos they are all about joy, excitement, creativity, and inspiration. But somehow, when we record worship, we have to tone it down a little. I guess we don’t want worship to be too joyful. But to be honest, I don’t know why we ever felt like we needed to stop bringing joy to worship. After all, that is the reason why we light the pink candle each year so that we remember to rejoice, right? It’s a little crazy, when you think about it. As adults, we have been so programmed to protect ourselves from the negative that sometimes we don’t even know how to let go and rejoice. We don’t know what to do with joy.
I think our scripture reading acknowledged that as well. The psalmist wrote, “But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy.” Friends, when we take refuge in God, do we forget to rejoice? So often in worship, we worry so much about what other people think of us, how we think we are supposed to act, and what we think we are supposed to say and do that we forget to rejoice. We are so busy controlling the moment that we forget to allow the joy of Jesus to overflow from our hearts.
Now we all know that the best teachers of joy are our children, because joy just naturally flows to them. They have not yet learned to stifle it and hold it back like adult have. I saw a video of a small child laughing the other day. He was just laughing and laughing and laughing. He was laughing so hard in fact that his little belly was shaking. And within seconds, I started to smile and then began laughing myself. I had no idea what started him laughing, but the joy that was spilling out of him reminded me what it was like to feel such an unabashed sense of joy again.
The truth is happiness and joy are contagious. Now we often talk about the difference between happiness and joy, and there is a difference. Happiness is affected by outside sources, while joy comes from within. But sometimes it takes an outside source to remind us to choose joy in our lives and to look for the glimpses of joy all around us. That outside source reminds us to relax, to smile, to laugh, and to appreciate the simple things.
Now unfortunately, with our online worship, we don’t get the opportunity to have our kids lead us I worship like we do when we are in the sanctuary. So today, as we talk about the joy that we find in the Christmas story, rather than having a child lead us, we’re going to do the next best thing. We are going to step out of the refuge of “worship mode,” where everything is controlled and kept calm, and step into the joy of “Household Huddle mode,” where we allow our joy and excitement for Jesus to overflow as we hear about the joy found in the Christmas story.
(TRANSITION to Household Huddle)
In the Christmas story, we hear about lots of people that are filled with Joy. First, when Mary finds out that God has chosen her to have Baby Jesus, she is filled with so much joy that she sings out loud! And the song that she sings is called the Magnificat. Can you say Mag-ni-fi-cat? Magnificat! She sings: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Then, Mary goes on to thank God for choosing her to bring Baby Jesus into the world.
The angels appear to people over and over again, and they are filled with joy because they are excited to share the good news of Jesus. The shepherds, even though they are afraid at first when they first see the angels, run to see the baby. And then scripture says, “They returned glorifying and praising God for all that they had seen and heard.” They were so filled with joy, they couldn’t hold it in, and they went out to tell everyone about what they had seen.
And the wise men from the East? They had traveled so far to see baby Jesus that scripture says: “When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy!” Can you imagine how excited they must have been? After all, they traveled a long way to find baby Jesus, and when the star stopped in the sky, they knew that had found him! And out of their joy, they presented their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
I wonder, did you notice that each person that we just talked about was filled with joy when they found Jesus? They were so excited that their lives were changed forever! And they couldn’t help but tell other people about what they had seen and heard.
Wait a minute. That’s kind of like us too, isn’t it? We wait during the season of Advent, lighting our candles and getting ready for Jesus to come. Then on Christmas, we are so filled with joy that we sing songs, give gifts, and share the story of Jesus just like Mary and the angels and the shepherds and the wise men did. I guess we’re not very different from them, and our joy isn’t either.
So, brothers and sisters in Christ, as you go out into your week ahead, relax and allow yourself to truly experience the joy of Christmas, as you sing songs, give gifts, and share the story of Jesus just like Mary and the angels and the shepherds and the wise men did.
My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God, Amen!